Tin Can Lanterns

by Jan

Hot weather calls for cool crafts and these tin can lanterns are the perfect project. From the ice you’ll use to stabilize the cans for punching out your patterns to the glow the lanterns will cast at your next outdoor shindig, this project is cool in every sense of the word.


  • Empty tin cans of various sizes (not the plastic-lined kind)
  • Can Opener
  • Water
  • Freezer
  • Crayon or Sharpie
  • Hammer
  • Nails of various sizes
  • Candles of various size
  1. First things first - cut the top all the way off the can using the can opener.

  2. Wash the can thoroughly to remove the label and any food residue. You’re going for funky as in nifty, not funky as in smelly. Be careful with any sharp points you can opener may have left around the rim.

  3. Now for the cool part - fill the can with water and put it in the freezer over night or until the water is frozen solid.

  4. OK, you’ve waited out the freezing, now it’s time to get to work. And time is of the essence, ‘cause you don’t want to let the ice melt! Take the can out of the freezer and use the crayon or Sharpie to map out your design using dots. We used flower patterns, Celtic designs, and even fashioned a tribute to Pac-Man. Try to center the mid-point of your design between the top and bottom of the can. The dots you draw will become holes where the candlelight will shine through, so try not to plan too few or too many.

  5. Position a nail on a point in your pattern, grab the hammer, and pound out a hole. Experiment with using different sized nails — you can create interesting effects in this way.

  6. Continue the hammering process until you’ve poked holes in each spot, and then put the can in the sink to thaw.

  7. Once the ice is gone and the can is dry, you’re ready to add a candle. Candle choice depends on can size. A little 8 oz fruit can might do well with a tea candle, and you could probably put a short pillar or taper in a big juice can. We found that tea candles worked well in most standard vegetable cans. Experiment a little. If the candle won’t stand on its own, or if you don’t want wax build up in the bottom of your lantern, you’ll want to use a small candleholder.

  8. Now all that’s left is to scatter your lanterns around the porch or patio and to enjoy their twinkling lights on a warm summer evening.






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